Adults need to lead by ex­am­ple

The Irish Times Magazine - - SOUND OFF -

I have been a GAA fan all my life. Sum­mers in our house are spent fol­low­ing the Gal­way hurlers and Mayo foot­ballers around the coun­try. Luck­ily over the past num­ber of years, these tours have stretched into the heady days of Septem­ber and we’ve even man­aged to cel­e­brate bring­ing home an All Ire­land.

There are many things I love about the GAA aside from the games. I love the sense of com­mu­nity, I love that it’s unique to this coun­try, I love that the rea­son it works is be­cause so many thou­sands of peo­ple vol­un­teer their time. Since my chil­dren have started play­ing I re­alise just how much goes into mak­ing this amaz­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion work. What I don’t love is the at­ti­tude and lan­guage of some par­ents and coaches on the side­line.

Ev­ery week­end, on hun­dreds of pitches around the coun­try, teenage ref­er­ees take charge of what are mostly friendly un­der­age matches. And ev­ery week an in­creas­ing num­ber of these kids are sub­jected to abuse, bad lan­guage and ac­cu­sa­tions of cheat­ing from the side­lines.

Many of t hem have only done a ba­sic ref­er­ee­ing course. But they are all play­ers who know more about the game than the many so- called ex­perts who shout pro­fan­i­ties at them from the side­line. And even if they didn’t, this treat­ment would still not be jus­ti­fied. They are teenagers, and are do­ing their best.

What kind of an ex­am­ple are adults giv­ing to chil­dren when they abuse a ref­eree? What does it teach young sports­peo­ple when they see a coach or par­ent chal­lenge a de­ci­sion or swear from the side­line at a kick missed, or a goal chance wasted?

We en­cour­age our chil­dren to play sport for many rea­sons, not least the health ben­e­fits. But we are also try­ing to teach them sports­man­ship, how to be a team player, how to ac­cept de­feat and lose grace­fully, how to try your best, re­gard­less of the re­sult.

My fa­ther’s most fre­quent lec­ture to us as chil­dren was “if you’ve noth­ing nice to say, say noth­ing”. It would be nice if some adults on the side­lines this week­end took this ad­vice on board.

Anna Kenny is an Ir­ish Times jour­nal­ist

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